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Iron Deficiency & Absorption

If you read the blog on energy optimization, you may remember that nutrient deficiencies are a common cause of low energy. At Nexus Naturopathic Medical Clinic, one of the most common nutrient deficiencies that patients present with is iron deficiency.

Symptoms of iron deficiency can include:

  • Chronic tiredness or sleepiness

  • Poor concentration/brain fog

  • Shortness of breath

  • Cold intolerance

  • Hair loss

  • Anxiety

  • Brittle nails

  • Dizziness

  • Heavy menstruation

  • Chronic headaches

  • Rapid/irregular heartbeat

Iron deficiency is more prevalent among females, mostly because regular menstruation contributes to low iron stores. However, with proper supplementation and consistent adequate nutrition, iron levels should be stable. But, why is it that iron levels are easily maintained by some patients, yet decrease to dangerously low levels in others?

When menstruation is heavy (ie. having to change menstrual products every 2 hours, bleeding longer than 7 days), more blood is lost than that during an optimal menstrual cycle. Although this may be common, it is NOT normal. Heavy blood loss increases the risk for iron deficiency. Blood loss can also occur in the presence of a gastrointestinal bleed, such as during a stomach ulcer or colon cancer. This is why it is important to track your bowel movements, and talk to your doctor if you see bloody or tarry stools.

Other factors that affect iron absorption include the following:

  • Gut inflammation: Patients with celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease have decreased absorption of nutrients

  • Deficiencies in other essential vitamins needed for iron absorption

  • Taking iron with the wrong foods, which negatively affect iron absorption

  • Non-optimal thyroid health, which impacts iron

  • Type of iron: Meat based iron vs vegetarian forms have different absorptions

  • Dose and timing of iron supplementation

By now, it should be clear that treating iron deficiency is not as simple as writing an iron prescription or supplementing with iron. Many factors play a role in iron deficiency, which often get overlooked. These causes need to be addressed.

If you have iron deficiency, Calgary Naturopath Dr. Dhaliwal takes a comprehensive health history and uses various lab testing to determine the underlying causes. Treatments include the use of professional grade supplements, nutrition, and lifestyle modification. To book an appointment, call 403-453-6261 or book online.


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